March 9, 2007 § 11 Comments

There is a phrase that is caught in the branches of my sleep-deprived brain, where it has rustled and flapped for most of the day.  I’ve laboured to remember its source, but the morning’s caffeine molecules have long since faded and without them, I am nothing.

Wait, was that it?  (Blinks.)  It was.

Oddly, it’s from a book about the Tarot; specifically, a book about the Thoth deck, which I am fascinated by but do not own.  Crowley, rampant egotist that he was, took it upon himself not only to reinterpret the cards, but to give them new names: thus, Strength became Lust; Justice, Adjustment; and Temperance, Art.  The flapping phrase concerns the meaning of the Art card, which is, essentially, “living the ordinary life in an extraordinary way.”

If there is a thread in me, an instinct that verges on belief, it is this.  I mean, what other life is there, and what other way is there to live it?  The trick is understanding the difference between the life and the living.  I (if I am) am as common as dirt, a descendant of peasants who rest in unmarked graves.  The experiences I allow myself to have, though–the chance encounters, the happy accidents, the strange synchronicities–well, surely, this is where the art lies?

Of course it is.  Silly.     

So, you can have your fragile, fleeting genius and all that it implies.  Me, I’ve got living to do.


§ 11 Responses to Unstuck

  • Alison says:

    “I have put my talent into writing, my genius I have saved for living.” (That was Oscar Wilde.)

  • Jon says:

    Thanks for that. I’m now going to revisit my deck with a new found importance.

  • Vila H. says:

    Hmm, Wilde again. Speaking of synchronicities…

  • Like his cohorts in the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn (i.e. Mathers), the rampant egoist in question was heavily influenced by Egyptian mythology in his occult formulations (this was what the occult was all about in the late 19th and early 20th century — think of Theosophy), and that Tarot deck reflects his inclinations (which, supposedly, extended to convincing his wife to have sex with goats…). There’s an amusing passage about Crowley’s appearance here (in Vic) in a recent guidebook [Ross Crockford, Victoria: The Unknown City (Vancouver: Arsenal Press, 2006), p. 214]:

    “In his Confessions, the ‘great beast’ of occult sex magic says he stopped [in Victoria] in 1915, on his way from Vancouver to Seattle. While ashore he met one of his former worshippers, transformed by Victoria’s clean living. ‘[T]he flabby sensual debauched rake had become clean, muscular, trim, bright-eyed and self-controlled,’ Crowley wrote. ‘If I could have stayed a week in Victoria I might have rescued her.'”

    That pretty much sums up Crowley, and Victoria for that matter. For all his faults, though, he definitely did some living…

  • Frank says:

    I can see how living life like a sheep planted every evening in front of the television could be comforting and it is a nice diversion occasionnally. But I’ve found there is too much interesting stuff out there. Art, Science, Human Nature, Politics, History, Music. So many interests to follow in such a limited time (lifespan). Plus there is the time to share and discuss it with others in forums like this. Makes it hard to believe so many people pass their lifetime on the couch (or in front of a screen).

  • Vila H. says:

    Sparky: What is it with the goats? I realize that bestiality has a long and colourful history, but I still fail to see the appeal.

    Goats aside, it’s a fantastic quote, and one that seems especially well suited to our health-obsessed times. Actually, I’ve always preferred Crowley’s take on the Tarot–the other is downright WASPy by comparison, as the name changes show. Shame he was such a freak

  • Vila H. says:

    Frank: You do realize how much time I spend in front of my computer, don’t you? (Sighs.) It’s one of the reasons I’m positively aching for spring: I’ll be able to free my bicycle from its rail and go places again, just because I feel like it. Soon…

  • Frank says:

    Admittedly, I spend a ton of time behind a computer screen also. I justify that it is sane because part of the time it is for work and part of the time it is for social interaction and conversation that my lifestyle might not otherwise allow. It’s not like we spend the time gaming or catching the latest on Anna Nicole. That said, I pried myself away today at lunch and ran around Parc Lafontaine snapping photos in our relatively warm weather. I’m definitely going to do that more often. Spring will be here tomorrow.

  • sarah Q says:

    if there is such a thing as “ordinary life”!

    i’m with the romantic poets on this one. even the most mundane and boring things are really complex, and massive, and full of nuances. i find writing allows you to see everything in those new ways…. like shelley said, “Poetry lifts the veil from the hidden beauty of the world, and makes familiar objects be as if they were not familiar.”

  • Vila H. says:

    Works for me. :-) I’ve always liked small things, details, moments.. the stuff people tend to overlook when they’re aspiring to greatness. It’s all right there, isn’t it?

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